As the Brexit crisis paralyses the country and destroys the UK’s global reputation for political stability, one astonishing and dangerous truth is now evident: the right-wing Thatcherite anarcho-nihilist tail is wagging the Conservative dog. These dangerous European Research Group fanatics are willing to risk the entire future of our country in pursuit of their dubious vision of an extreme free market ‘nirvana’. Their Thatcherism 2.0 project seeks to detach the UK completely from Europe so that a deregulated market fundamentalist vision of extreme capitalism can be pursued without any constraint. 40 years of economic integration is therefore to be ripped up by March this year and damn the consequences.
The transgressive behaviour of Leave campaigners and operatives throughout the 2016 referendum during which they cheated, lied and illegally overspent money that came from opaque places should have served as a warning. It seems that there is now nothing some in the Conservative Party will not risk to ‘achieve’ a disorderly exit from the EU with no agreement in place at all. Indeed they have taken to claiming that this pure, hard Brexit is now the only legitimate way to fulfil their convenient interpretation of ‘the will of the people’. Like fanatical millenarians convinced that the end of the world is nigh, it appears that they have long since ceased to care about the consequences of their actions for the rest of us who do not share their obsession with reviving a new and virulent form of Thatcherism for the 21st century.
For the Tory anarcho-capitalists, no political or economic consequences are too dire for our country to face in pursuit of their ideological project. Even now they are threatening the split the Conservative Party asunder if they do not get one hundred percent of their way. There is no constitutional norm they are not prepared to rip up as they demand the most extreme interpretation of the hardest of hard Brexits available. The checks and balances in our unwritten constitution? The interpretations of law in the Supreme Court? The position of the Speaker? The 2017 general election, which actually ended the mandate for a hard Brexit? Votes in parliament? All must be sacrificed, it seems, for their particular interpretation of the only votes that now seem to matter – the 17 million leave votes cast in 2016. Any counter opinion is dismissed as coming from saboteurs or Remoaners and can be ignored.
Unfortunately this attitude is infecting the increasingly desperate Prime Minister too. Upon taking office, she catastrophically calculated that the fanatics in her own party could be assuaged and her entire strategy since then has been aimed at gaining their support. In concentrating on currying favour with them, she has failed to reach out and seek any sort of consensus. And so she has simply been blown further and further to the extreme right. This has exacerbated the deep divide which the referendum exposed. Like the right-wing ‘Tea Party’ fanatics in the USA, compromise is simply not in the DNA of the ERG. They have pocketed every concession and demanded more, driving the country to the cliff edge with a glee that freezes the blood of any sensible observer.
We now have a Prime Minister who believes that she can still blackmail parliament into accepting her botched blind Brexit deal, which went down to the largest defeat of any government in modern history. Ignoring that, she continues to offer a Hobson’s choice of her dead deal or the calamity of no deal at all. She blithely accuses anyone who doesn’t share her analysis of the options now facing the country of a ‘betrayal’ of democracy itself, and refuses to engage with any other approach but her own. She has even taken to accusing parliament of being against the people because it does not agree with her. Astonishingly, her ‘Plan B’ appears to be a thinly disguised version of her ‘Plan A’. If she is incapable of standing up to her own fanatics, parliament must take back control, take ‘no deal’ off the table and search for a compromise. Labour cannot facilitate a right-wing Thatcherite, anti-European project by even contemplating no deal. Labour is ready to play its part but it remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister is capable of compromise.
Angela Eagle is MP for Wallasey.